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Fan Club of the Month: Patriots West at Sonny McLean's

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The score reads Baltimore, 20, New England 23 with 15 seconds to go in the game as the Ravens line up for a 32-yeard field goal attempt to tie the game and take it to overtime.  The ball is snapped and goes wide left, and the Patriots win the 2011 AFC Championship game to head to the Super Bowl. Watching almost 3,000 miles at Sonny McLean's Irish Pub in Santa Monica, CA, Patriots fans waited anxiously. The silence was louder than anyone anticipated. As the ball curved to the outside of the goal post, the crowd erupted and people jumped, cheered and celebrated.

"Oh, man. We just went right into singing our songs and it was a magical time," said Patriots West at Sonny McLean's president, Michael Rodriguez.

Just like the 2011 AFC Championship, the club has created several memorable moments over the years. Michael started the group as a way to unite the Patriots fans that frequented the bar. A native of Los Angeles, he began a Facebook group to help communicate with everyone, and after getting inquiries from the Patriots about fan clubs in the area, he noticed that there wasn't one close by.

"There was one in Pasadena. There's one in Orange County, but there wasn't anything on the website [in L.A.] so I said let me see if I can start something," he said.

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The decision to become an official Patriots fan club through the Fan Club and Bar Registry proved to be a no brainer. Since everyone already gathered at the bar to watch the game, it was an easy choice to register the club.

"I think the biggest draw I wanted to get from it were people," Michael said.

When Sunday rolls around, visitors can expect to see members getting to the bar as 8:30 a.m. or 9 a.m. when the bar opens its doors. The bar reaches its full capacity about 30 minutes later with kickoff at 10 a.m. With more than 150 members in the club, Michael says things can get crazy.

"During the game, everyone is yelling," Michael said. "One of our girls from the corner of the bar, she calls out the first down and everyone gets into that."

Another tradition that the group has at every watch party is ringing a bell over the bar whenever the team scores a touchdown. Then after a Patriots win, the club sings three songs at the top of their lungs. First comes "Shipping up to Boston," by the Dropkick Murphys, then there's "Sweet Caroline," by Neil Diamond, followed by "Dirty Water," by The Standells.

"The whole bar gets into it, especially after a win, an exciting win," Michael said.

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Celebrating Patriots wins with those 150 people have bonded them all together and has helped to create a second family that looks out for each other. Recently the club's members banded together to help one of the bartenders at Sonny McLean's when her breast cancer returned. The group held a silent auction, where everyone contributed something.  Michael contributed two of eight tickets he'd bought for the San Francisco game and another member donated a signed Tom Brady jersey.

The bar owner also announced an optional cover charge that entered people into a raffle where winners received gift certificates to the bar. He also announced his plan to match those donations up to $1,500. From those cover charges, the owner helped to raise almost $20,000, which was added to the money raised from the live auction.

What started as a way to represent and cheer on the Patriots has turned into a bonded group that has each other's back.

"You know, it's a real family," Michael said.

To create a club of your own, visit the Patriots Fan Club and Bar Registry

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